Friday, November 18, 2005

Kinsley on Abortion 

Michael Kinsley, back in form after a few years writing mostly garbarge:
In a 1986 case called Bowers v. Hardwick, the Supreme Court ruled that state laws against homosexual sodomy do not violate the U.S. Constitution. In a 2003 case called Lawrence v. Texas, the court ruled that on second thought, anti-gay-sodomy laws do violate the Constitution. Liberal politicians cheered this rare and unexpected admission of error by the court. They did not express any alarm about the danger of overturning precedents. Plessy v. Ferguson, upholding racial segregation, was a major precedent when the court overturned it and ended formal racial segregation with Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. Liberals did not complain.

These days, the vital importance of respecting past Supreme Court rulings is an urgent talking point for Democratic operatives, liberal talk-show hosts, and senators feeling their way toward a reason to oppose Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito. Olympia Snowe, a Republican liberal from Maine, said Wednesday that Alito's respect for precedents will be "the major question" in her decision whether to support him.

The major question for Snowe and other liberal senators actually is not respect for judicial precedents. The major question is abortion. They want to know whether Alito would vote to overturn Roe. But by the absurd unwritten rules of these increasingly stylized episodes, they are not allowed to ask him and he is not allowed to answer. So the nominee does a fan dance, tantalizing the audience by revealing little bits of his thinking but denying us a complete view. And senators pretend, maybe even to themselves, that they really care about precedents and privacy in the abstract.
As they say, read the whole thing. A corrolary to this is that, since Alito wrote them memo in the 1980s saying he strongly disagreed with Roe, isn't that just the type of "pre-judging" that apparently precludes nominees answering questions? And if so, shouldn't Alito be estopped from using that lame-ass defense.

And shouldn't I get a pony (or at least a cookie) for using "estopped" and "lame-ass" in the same sentence?

And, for the kids, our favorite Kinsley column ever.
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